Herbal Energetics: Cold

If we can agree that a cucumber is moist and cooling while a chili pepper is hot and drying then we can see that we each have a unique combination of Hot, Dry, Cold and Damp, plants and humans alike.


Remember back to primary school and learning about molecules and the states of matter? We learnt that with heat comes energy and invigorated molecules separating from each other. The addition of cold rendered molecules in stasis, effectively changing a liquid into a solid.

Cold brings slowness, closure, a withdrawing and coming to a stop. Imagine a hot summer day, the insects flying around, sweaty people fanning themselves, the noise of children playing and laughing and the sound of airplanes coming from a clear blue sky. Contrast that with a deep dark winter’s day; not a soul to be seen; the snow-covered world insulated from sound; closed up houses, seemingly in permanent stasis; peace and tranquility.

When we are cold, we hold ourselves more tightly, we wrap ourselves up, we cuddle in close to a loved one. We wear socks. We curl up on the couch. When molecules are contained and submitted to cold, that is exactly what they do; they couple more tightly together and become less active.

Herbs that are cold in nature are used to decrease excessive activity in our tissues, to slow down degenerative processes in our body, thicken up fluids in the body, close up pores and slow down bodily processes, in general.

To quote Matthew Wood again on the 4 degrees of cold:

“[Cold in the first degree] lessens
heat from exposure to the sun. Salad greens are considered cold in the first degree. Second degree thickens fluids and reduces internal heat. Third degree restrains the outward flow of fluids and matters. Fourth degree prevents “vapors” from rising upwards. Vapors are analogous to “rebellious qi” in traditional Chinese medicine. They are energy that is rising upward against the flow of nature. They include excessive coughing, vomiting, and menstrual cramps. Dizziness, fainting, swooning, hysteria, and PMS can be caused by vapors. Agents cold in the fourth degree stupefy the senses to ease violent pain and reduce mania, nervousness, restlessness, and insomnia.”

Plants that are cold in the 4th degree depress and shut down systems in a dramatic, maybe life-threatening way. I am imagining Opium.

Whereas a heating remedy can be thought of as a stimulant, a cooling remedy is a depressant. Taken to remedy heat or over-stimulation: often marked by redness, inflammation, tenderness or pain, cooling herbs serve to depress or suppress functionality in one or more vital systems of the body.

Plants that are cooling are marked by distinct tastes and sensations. Cooling bitters are easy to identify as they are taken to reduce gastrointestinal heat, cause a cooling sensation throughout the body (often accompanied by a shiver) and cause bowel elimination.

Partial list of herbs with cooling qualities:

Blue Flag (Iris versicolor)
Blue Vervain (Verbena hastata)
Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Cleavers (Galium aparine)
Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
Gentian (Gentiana lutea)
Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.)

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
Motherwort (Leonurus cardiaca)
Nettle (Urtica dioica)
Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium)
Red Clover (Trifolium pratense)
Red Raspberry (Rubus ideaeus)
Red Root (Ceanothus americanus)
Rose (Rosa spp.)
Skullcap (Scutellaria lateriflora)
Wild Cherry (Prunus serotina)
Wild Lettuce (Lactuca virosa)
Willow (Salix alba)
Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
Hops (Humulus lupulus)

When to use Cooling Herbs:

1. Digestive issues; heartburn; IBS

2. Fevers/infection

3. High blood pressure

4. Inflammation/pain

5. Mood swings/anxiety

6. Urinary dysfunction/infection

7. Stressful situations

Of course, your natural energetic state as well as your acute energetic state should be taken into consideration when choosing herbs of a cooling nature. Adding cold to an chilled person would exacerbate the problem.

During cold and flu season, your respiratory tissue state will help you to identify the right herb to use as a remedy.


Cold First Aid Herbal Extract

During cold and flu season, it’s important to be prepared. This season, my whole family got the flu. It has been years since we have had the flu, and all of us at the same time, that has never happened. Thanks to preparedness and our Herbal First Aid Kit, we didn’t have to go to the doctor or even the pharmacy.

At the first sign of cold or flu, we take Elderberry SyrupFever Doctor Tea and this Cold First Aid tincture. This tincture boosts the immune system while relieving symptoms of a cold or flu. It also tastes pretty good, an added bonus!

Cold First Aid Herbal Extract

  • 2 parts Elderberries (dried or fresh) (42% alcohol)
  • 2 parts Elderflower (dried or fresh) (42% alcohol)
  • 1 part Oregano (dried or fresh) (42% alcohol)
  • 2 parts Echinacea root (dried or fresh) (80% alcohol)
  • 1 part Licorice root (dried or fresh) (80% alcohol)
  • Alcohol (at least 42% for leaves, flowers and stems, brandy, vodka; 80% for roots and barks, Everclear)
  • Sterilised jar and lid

Grind or chop the plant material as finely as possible. I use my juicer to grind the dried plant material and my grain mill to grind the dried roots.

Add the plant material to the jar: Dried- fill 1/2 of jar

                                                            Fresh- fill the entire jar

Add the alcohol. Fill to the brim. Keep an eye on it for the next several minutes and keep adding alcohol until all the plant material is covered.

Seal well and label with the plant name, date, percent and type of alcohol and the date 6 weeks out.

Shake the jar daily and store in a cool, dark place.

After 6 weeks, strain out plant material and decant the tincture into sterilised bottles for use.

Label bottles with the tincture name.

Adult dose: 3ml 3x day as a preventative, or 5 ml 3-5x day during the onset of a cold or flu.

Medicinal actions:

Elderberry (Sambucus nigra): adaptogen, immunostimulant, decongestant, antiviral, antioxidant

Elderflower (Sambucus nigra): antiviral, antifungal, antimicrobial, decongestant, relaxant

Oregano (Origanum marjoram): tonic, diaphoretic, antiviral, antioxidant, expectorant.

Echinacea (Echinacea): anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, immunostimulant, diaphoretic, antiviral, antioxidant, vulnerary.

Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra): demulcent, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, adaptogen, antitussive, antiviral.

Saying Hello to Old Friends

I’m not my best self in winter. The gray days here last from October through March. The garden is covered in snow and ice, is brown and gray and mushy. Blech.

No one lives in our neighbourhood in winter. Ok, they live in their houses, but they don’t come out…ever.

My heart feels covered in ice and snow and I can’t find myself. I’m buried somewhere hibernating while my other self, the shell goes through the day living my life.

Today the sun came out. It wasn’t freezing outside. And I gardened…and gardened.

I felt the sun on my skin. I took my jacket and hat off.

I said hello to neighbours (people exist!) and I talked for over an hour to my next door neighbour and friend. We told each other that we had missed each other. Our houses share a wall, but we might as well have lived on other planets for these past five months.


I said hello to plant friends popping up out of the ground. Welcome back, Echinacea, valerian, mint, catnip, comfrey, rhubarb, tansy, bleeding heart, blueberry and so many others.

Welcome back, Krista.




Antibiotic Syrup

Just days before my eldest daughter was due to fly to Japan to work and create at an artists’ colony, she developed a painful toe infection. This very same day, my husband’s flu took a turn for the worse and he was complaining of bronchitis-like symptoms. Before we went to the doctor, getting antibiotics (something we really don’t want) and minor surgery for my daughter, I decided to get out the big guns.

This syrup is powerful, useful internally to boost the immune system and kill the unwanted microbes, as well as topically as an antibiotic poultice.

Antibiotic Syrup

  • 5 cloves of fresh garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 3 T freshly grated ginger
  • 2 T turmeric powder or 2 T freshly grated turmeric
  • 1 large jar of local organic honey

Crush the garlic with the heel of your hand using the flat blade of a knife.

Leave the garlic to allow the allicin in the garlic to bloom, 15 minutes.

Chop up the onion and grate the ginger and turmeric.

Add everything to the honey in a pot.

Heat over very low heat (do not allow it to simmer, bubble or boil) for 1 hour.

Strain and pour back into the honey jar.

You can leave everything in the honey if you would like. We do this and eat the cloves, ginger and onions as well.


Ingested: 1T 3-5x/day during acute symptoms

1T 2x/day as preventative (during cold and flu season)

Poultice: apply the paste to the infected or inflamed area. If it burns there is too much garlic, apply it diluted. Leave on for at least 20 minutes.


Medicinal Actions:

Garlic: anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, antimicrobial, anti-parasitic, anti-fungal

Honey: anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, vulnerary, antimicrobial, anti-fungal

Onion: anti-bacterial, anti-oxidant, anti-cancer, antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-fungal, vulnerary

Turmeric: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, vulnerary

Ginger: anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, anti-fungal, vulnerary


After only a day, my daughter’s toe looks tons better and my husband is feeling much better, his lungs aren’t hurting him.

Update: After travelling and being under great stress for over 30 hours, Rebekah’s toe again looks worse. I talked with her today and asked her to get the ingredients to make this syrup. She is making it tonight and I will let you know how it goes.

Here are pics of Rebekah making the syrup today in Sapporo, Japan. She’s going to take a dose internally tonight and as a poultice on her toe tonight. So, I hope to see some improvement even tomorrow morning for her.

Rebekah’s toe with the infected granuloma at the beginning of the Antibiotic Syrup treatment (L) and then after 4 days on the treatment (R). It doesn’t hurt now. She will continue on the treatment for another week. The brownish goo you see is a yarrow poultice that she wears at night.


Rebekah marinating her toe in Antibiotic Syrup

Thyme Salve

Thyme is used quite often in our household. We use Thyme Cough Syrup to help with coughing, Clear Chest Salve as a chest poultice for a painful, hacking cough or if bronchitis is present, and as an antibacterial ointment for any infection. I drank copious amounts of thyme and sage tea as an internal antibacterial to stave off infection after I burnt my leg.

We apply Thyme Salve to every infection we have and it is awesome!

During cold and flu season and depending on my respiratory tissue state, we will use one of our chest salves. This Thyme Salve is excellent as a chest poultice for when you need help clearing mucous from the respiratory tract and lungs. The pulmonary uses of thyme are based on its antiseptic and anti-bacterial actions combined with the expectorant and spasmolytic actions. This is particularly helpful during acute symptoms for respiratory distress, especially bronchitis.

Thyme Salve

  • 1 cup (240 ml) Thyme-infused olive oil Infused Oil Recipe
  • 1/4 cup (60 g) beeswax
  • 20 drops: Eucalyptus essential oil

In a double boiler (or a pot nestled in a larger pot filled with a bit of water) over medium heat, add the oils and beeswax. 

Stir until the beeswax melts and is fully incorporated.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for a moment.

Add the essential oils. Stir.

Pour into clean and sterilised jars.

Medicinal Actions:

Thyme: Anti-septic, anti-helmintic (anti-parasite), anti-viral, anti-bacterial, astringent, expectorant, secretolitic (decreases over-secretions), spasmolytic, anti-fungal

Eucalyptus: antibacterial, decongestant, affinity for respiratory system, anti-inflammatory

Herbal Energetics: Hot

If we can agree that a cucumber is moist and cooling while a chili pepper is hot and drying then we can see that we each have a unique combination of Hot, Dry, Cold and Damp, plants and humans alike.

This last week in my 5th and 6th grade Science classes, we were talking about the states of matter.We subjected lots of ice to a high heat to register the change in state. We discussed molecules and how, when plied with heat, are stimulated into action. They are dispersed; radiating away from center; moving up and away; rapidly separating from one another.

We know that within the crucible, substances are purified. It consumes and burns up, breaks down and destroys. It leaves behind the essence of the substance. Fire purifies.

From a medicinal standpoint, when a substance has a heating quality it is active, it is stimulating and within our tissues there is an invigoration. The plant itself may not taste hot, but it has a heating quality. These plants have a tendency to move and stimulate the blood within the circulatory system, clearing stagnation, increasing elimination of impurities and remedying the effects of coldness and tissue depression.

Within this heat state, the Greek physicians of old identified four degrees of heat. These are described nicely by herbalist Matthew Wood:

“[Hot in the first degree] opens pores to expel moisture by perspiration and other channels. Second degree thins fluids so that they can better pass through pores and channels. Third degree increases the internal heat of digestion and metabolism, so that the body stays warm and the perspiration is driven outward toward the surface. Fourth degree burns the skin. These agents are used externally to awaken organs and functions that are blocked or inactive (cold, depressed) and to burn away tumors.”

Plants of the fourth degree heat are so strong as to actually burn you. I am imagining a ghost pepper right now.

While most, if not all, plants with heating qualities are stimulating, not all stimulating herbs are hot; some are cooling.

According to Materia Medica Monthly:

“Plants that are typically hot in quality contain resins, pungent aromatic essential oils, and oftentimes have a warming, spicy flavor to them (though not always). Many influence the digestive system through warming up agni, or digestive fire, increase circulation of the blood, promote sweating or diaphoresis, contain anti-microbial properties, and generally help to relieve the cold/depression and damp/stagnation tissue states by enhancing the bodies innate capacity to combust and metabolize toxins and by stimulating the organs into a greater level of activity.”

Partial list of herbs with heating qualities:

Angelica (Angelica spp.)
Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera)
Balsam root (Balsamorrhiza sagittata)
Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Catnip (Nepeta cataria)
Cayenne (Capsicum annum)
Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
Devil’s Club (Oplopanax horridus)
Elecampane (Inula helenium)
Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
Garlic (Allium sativa)
Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
Holy Basil (Ocimum sanctum)
Horseradish (Armoracia rusticana)
Juniper (Juniperus communis)
Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
Osha (Ligusticum porteri)
Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata)
Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum americanum)
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Sage (Salvia officinalis)
Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)
Turmeric (Curcuma longa)
Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)
Vitex (Vitex agnus castus)

When to use Heating Herbs:

1. Digestive issues; gas

2. Cough, respiratory distress, bronchitis, congestion

3. Pain

4. Inflammation

5. Infection; antibiotic

Of course, your natural energetic state as well as your acute energetic state should be taken into consideration when choosing herbs of a heating nature. Adding heat to an overheated person would exacerbate the problem.

During cold and flu season, your respiratory tissue state will help you to identify the right herb to use as a remedy.


Basic Face Wash

I have been using the oil cleansing method on my face for months now. It has really worked well for me so far. I use hemp seed oil most often as it is really nutritive and non-comedogenic.

My daughters and some of my clients have asked for a simple, organic face cleanser that isn’t drying and is nutritive to the skin. I personally use this when I need that squeaky clean feel. I follow it up with my Calendula Face Cream.

Basic Face Wash

  • 2/3 cup organic 99% pure castile soap
  • 2 T + 2 t hemp seed oil (or any other oil you prefer, almond, olive, poppy seed)
  • 2 T + 2 t rose, orange blossom or lavender hydrosol
  • 2 t vitamin E oil
  • 1 T aloe vera gel
  • a few drops of essential oil of your choice 

Mix well.

Store in a plastic pump bottle.

Shake well before each use.

Essential Oil Recommendations

Mature Skin

Lavender: anti-oxidant, antimicrobial, soothing, vulnerary, anti-stress

Geranium: regenerative, anti-inflammatory, useful for scar and wrinkle fading

Chamomile: anti-oxidant

Dry Skin

Patchouli: regulates sebum production, soothing, moisturising

Frankincense: repairs dry skin, balances skin

Acne-prone Skin

Tea tree: unblocks sebaceous glands, disinfects pores

Thyme: anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, astringent



Caution: Avoid contact with eyes. It can sting!